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Published: 19 September 2013

368 Pages


ISBN: 9780199009183

Bookseller Code (AE)

The Oxford Book of Canadian Verse

Wilfred Campbell (deceased) and Introduction by Len Early

Wynford Books

  • New introduction. The Wynford edition includes a new introduction by Len Early that highlights the work's continued relevance for the modern reader.
  • 100-year anniversary. Published a century ago in 1913, this landmark publication introduced Canadian poets into the canon and signifies Oxford University Press's historic contribution to Canadian culture.
  • Fascinating publication history. Campbell's original selection did not include anything beyond 1908, and was mercilessly recast by a replacement editor. New, younger voices were brought in, challenging the inherited British tradition.
  • Earliest published works of Confederation Poets. Bliss Carman, Charles G.D. Roberts, Duncan Campbell Scott, and Archibald Lampman explore a range of themes, from war to beautifully evoked Canadian landscapes.
  • A nation on the verge of war. By 1913 trouble was clearly stirring in Europe, and Canada's role as a member of the British Empire on an increasingly tense planet is a recurring theme. A final poem, "Canada (Song for Dominion Day)" looks down the "long white road" to ask, "What shall I find beyond the rise? / Peace and plenty / or black Defeat?"
  • Newcomer perspective. Many of these poets were emigrants to Canada, and in describing their new home they often depict the harsh landscape with the full force of the British poetic tradition (ice, frost, blizzards, slush, sleet, winter, and snow make recurring appearances). Death, emptiness, and loss are motifs, but so is an ongoing fascination with the natural world.
  • Diverse voices and subjects. The breadth of the material is unexpected, ranging from young female poets to displaced Highlanders, the ocean to agriculture, Ottawa to Halifax, and Aboriginal peoples to ancient Egyptians.
  • Surprising role of Aboriginal peoples. While many of the early poems are influenced by the "noble savage" tradition, there is still interest in Canada's Aboriginal peoples and an attempt to make some kind of cultural connection. Of particular interest is the inclusion of the poetry of E. Pauline Johnson, also known in Mohawk as Tekahionwake, which nicely resists simple categorization.
  • New possibilities for research. The selection of poems and publication history here tells a more nuanced story about Canada's poetic development than is currently part of our national narrative. A second look at this collection will raise questions about selection, what poems were in circulation at the time, and the book's reception.

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